Don't confuse AWOL Board of Legislative Reference with Baltimore City Ethics Board

The Sun recently ran a front page, above-the-fold story under the headline, "Ethics Board Gone AWOL?" (Nov. 12). The story went on to report in some detail about the workings of the seven-member Board of Legislative Reference, a body established by the city charter whose members include the mayor, the city solicitor, a member of the City Council, the president of the Johns Hopkins University, the deans of the University of Maryland and the University of Baltimore law schools and the director of the Enoch Pratt Library.

Left unsaid by the story (and the headline) was any distinction between the Board of Legislative Reference — the principal subject of the story itself — and the Baltimore City Ethics Board, a separate five-person board comprised of private citizens appointed by the mayor, the city comptroller and the president of the City Council and charged with overseeing and enforcing the city's ethics laws.

The misleading impression left by the headline in particular is one of dereliction by the ethics board. To the contrary, since the reconstituted ethics board's appointment in June 2010, it has met in public session on a monthly basis. During that period, it has performed a great many tasks consistent with its mission, some public, others confidential as required by law, and it recently issued a public report detailing its work over that period.

Indeed, much of the board's work during that time has been reported on in great detail by The Sun and other media outlets.

But a reader of The Sun's headline and accompanying story would be forgiven for completely conflating and confusing the two separate and distinct bodies (that is the Board of Legislative Reference and the Baltimore City Ethics Board) and for falsely surmising that the latter hasn't met or performed any work in years.

Going forward, we would hope — without regard to the merits, details or subject matter of this or any other story — that The Sun and other media outlets will be as accurate as possible in describing and distinguishing the important work of the Ethics Board from that of other city boards and commissions.

Jennifer Burdick, Dawna M. Cobb, Guy E. Flynn, Alicia Wilson and Lu Pierson, Baltimore

The writers are members of the Baltimore City Ethics Board. Ms. Pierson is the chairwoman.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad